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SFPD Breathalyzer Mistake Puts Hundreds of DUI Convictions In Doubt 498

Posted by Soulskill
from the calibration-is-key dept.
Mr. Shotgun writes "According to CBS, 'Hundreds, or even thousands, of drunk driving convictions could be overturned because the San Francisco Police Department has not tested its breathalyzers, officials said Monday. For at least six years, the police officers in charge of testing the 20 breathalyzers used by the Police Department did not carry out any tests on the equipment. Officers instead filled the test forms with numbers that matched the control sample, said Public Defender Jeff Adachi, throwing countless DUI convictions into doubt.' Apparently this has happened before."
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SFPD Breathalyzer Mistake Puts Hundreds of DUI Convictions In Doubt

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  • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle.hotmail@com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:34PM (#39302409) Homepage

    This is fraud: A police officer accepted a paycheck for work and services he did not perform. That's fraud, and the officer should be relieved of duty and terminated from employment. Cops aren't above the law, or accountability, and it sounds like whoever fraudulently filled out the forms using the baseline measurements engaged in fraud.

  • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:34PM (#39302419) Homepage

    A mistake would have been using the wrong calibration procedure or something. Deliberately NOT PERFORMING the required calibration and falsifying the report forms is not a "mistake", it is outright FRAUD, and the pig or pigs responsible need to be held responsible.

    Of course, that ain't gonna happen here in the United Police States of Amerika...

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:58PM (#39302753) Journal
    Since this is a legal document which is going to be used in court proceedings, I would say that conspiracy to pervert the course of justice would be a better charge...
  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:05PM (#39302821)

    Which is why the quantity matters.

    Also, is there no second test done by a different method? In the UK you can blow positive by the roadside, but a second test by entirely different methods is done back at the police station on a non-portable unit, and then a blood test an be requested.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe&jwsmythe,com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:22PM (#39303083) Homepage Journal

        Actually, testing for alcohol consumption 14 days later makes perfect sense.

        If the incident happened on a Friday night, 14 days later is again a Friday night. If you go drinking with the guys (or girls, or whatevers), you'll most likely test positive again. :)

        Honestly though, you're right. You'll can register a BAC up to about 12 hours after drinking. That's an extreme, and you'd probably be in the hospital (or morgue).

        An EtG test (testing to if you did metabolize alcohol) is reported to be viable up to about 80 hours (3.4 days) after consumption. That only says you were exposed, not how much you drank. That's only useful if you are forbidden from drinking, and can give false positive reports from using alcohol based mouthwash or hand sanitizer (among other things).

        Labs can report how much was present, or if a trace was present. There are plenty of people who function normally, that will test positive for a variety of drugs. Unfortunately, the prosecution will use any detection as proof of impairment. It's up to the defense to show that it wasn't an amount for impairment.

        I've seen this in the workplace too. Someone tested positive for opiates. They were prescribed opiate based pain killers, and were not taking them in excess. Because the company had a zero tolerance policy, that person was fired. They did not allow introduction of evidence to counter the drug test report. As the rumor mill retold the story, she tested positive for "heroin", but as the drug tests aren't that specific, that was an incorrect assertion. I don't know if she sued or not, but I hope she did.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sjames (1099) on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:26PM (#39303167) Homepage

    So, will they be paying the defendant's legal fees, cost of DUI school, lost work time and reasonable compensation for slandering their good name? How about lost employment opportunities?

  • by wwphx (225607) on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:33PM (#39303283) Homepage
    A friend of mine driving a Jaguar XKS was pulled over by a Scottsdale cop who claimed he was doing 50+ in a residential zone. I was working at Phoenix Police at the time and had told him that motorcycle cops were supposed to check their radar guns at the start of every shift, then they were calibrated during routine maintenance once or twice a year and I think a copy of those maintenance/calibration records traveled with the bike. I'd told my friend all of this, and he knew he hadn't been speeding, so he asked for the calibration records. The cop eventually called his supervisor, the supervisor pointed the radar gun at a tree and clocked it at 30 MPH and told my friend to leave.
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:47PM (#39303493)

    sumarized: you may be able to beat the rap but you can't beat the ride.

    don't fight or struggle and just go peacefully. don't give them ANY reason to mess with you.

    also, here's a tip I learned from reading a cop forum: there are new rules for when they can search your vehicle. one way they try to trap you is to pull you over and then then sit in THEIR car an extended period of time. they watch you. they look for your movements and try to use that against you ('he was hiding something or trying to cover something up'). so, DON'T GIVE THEM ANY AMMUNITION FOR THIS! sit there motionless, perfectly still. don't move until they walk up to your car and they ask for your papers.. tell them your license and papers are in such and such pocket and that you are going to retrieve them. tell them every move you are going to make and give them NO reason to say that they were at risk of danger due to your behavior.

    if you do not give them a reason to 'turn your car over' (search it) then you have a bit more power in court, should it get to that.

    this is a trick the cops are now trying; to get you to be impatient so that you can 'look suspicious' to them and that gives them the right (in their eyes) to search you 'for dangerous weapons'.

    sit there and do not move. helpful advice I learned from a cop forum online! (thanks for tipping your hands, guys. 'preciate it!)

  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday March 09, 2012 @04:12PM (#39304793)

    That would explain why a cop claimed he measured me at 91,

    Yes, a failure to calibrate the breathalyzer would explain this.

    even though my cruise control had been set to 79 (plus four over the speed limit).

    If you are going to rely on your cruise control, you should be aware that they don't always keep you from going faster than they are set. They will try to accellerate if the car starts to slow, but I don't know of any of them that will put on the brakes if you are going too fast.

    You can easily override the speed by resting your foot on the accellerator. The one in my car actually does worse at controlling speed going downhill than just letting the car control itself. I.e., cruise control on, downhill, I can pick up 20MPH, but with it off, the natural engine braking keeps me close to speed.

    His equipment was probably not calibrated and giving false readings.

    If you are ever stopped for a radar violation, ask to see the equipment calibrated in front of you. It's really easy to do, all they do is hold a tuning fork in front of the antenna. If they refuse, then you have good grounds to claim failure to calibrate as required.

Just because he's dead is no reason to lay off work.

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